McCain, POWs, & the Stab in the Back

(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I have never been tortured. But I have worked clinically with those who have, including U.S. POWs. I can tell you it breaks the mind and the body, the soul and the spirit, in a way that can never be forgotten.

Now John McCain cites his experience as a POW and torture victim as an anodyne to every mildly injurious political attack. While his painful experience as a POW matters in the history of the man, in our nation’s history, what matters now is that McCain has betrayed that experience, and the lives of thousands he could both know and not know. In doing so, he also betrayed the ideals of American fair-play and justice, going back to George Washington (who forbid his revolutionary army to engage in torture, even if the British did). As everyone should know, those ideals were not realized fully, and we are still fighting for them today. But McCain has trampled them in the mud.

This is about how John McCain, a victim of years of incarceration and of torture during the Vietnam War, helped pass the Military Commissions Act, working to leave prisoners, including prisoners he knew were innocent, in solitary confinement as “enemy combatants”, and subjected to CIA torture, which was the diabolical program of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Only a few months ago, one could find McCain railing against a Supreme Court decision that gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court. For McCain, who languished for years in prison, it is okay if America’s prisoners rot in jail forever.

McCain betrayed the rights of prisoners established by the Geneva conventions, maybe rights he did not enjoy fully as a POW himself, so all the more awful when he betrayed them and turned captives of American military power into long-term prisoners and victims of torture.

One can honor the suffering of an individual, any individual, for no man is an island, and every person’s suffering diminishes me. Therefore, one can honor John McCain’s suffering and the hell he endured — as we would any human being who experienced what he did.

But no one can honor the machinations of a shameless politician who prostitutes his own suffering, turns the moral lessons of his own torture on its head, and sells out all those who would endure what he endured… for the modern equivalent of thirty pieces of silver — electoral office.

McCain stabbed his fellow POWs in the back. This isn’t about whether he confessed under torture, or whether he funded veterans issues, or not. This is about how he took the lessons it was his sad destiny to suffer, and turned them into their opposite.

In pushing and voting for the MCA, with its provisions against habeas corpus, and its endorsement of so-called “enhanced” interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, McCain has committed a great moral sin. He has done this in the name of pride and power.

His defeat, his fall should be a lesson to all who would cynically pander their own hard suffering, and abandon those brothers and sisters in pain and loss, his fellow prisoners, captured in war or during civil conflict, held captive in nation after nation, by guerrilla or terrorist group, by the West or the East, by believer or infidel, prisoners both male and female, of all religions, creeds, and nationalities.

In the end it all comes down to this. When all eyes were upon him, McCain supported torture. And in doing so, he stabbed all prisoners in the back.

Also posted at Daily Kos and Invictus


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    • Valtin on August 26, 2008 at 08:59

    to listen to anymore media bullshit and whimpy liberal response on this issue. It’s not about overuse of the POW issue by McCain, it’s an IMMORAL use, given his support for torture and indefinite detention of prisoners.


  1. You are so right — it defies the imagination how McCain could stand on the laurels of his own experience and then use it as a tool against others.

    I should have mentioned this in my LTE, along with all the other points, but this is good enough as a point all by itself.  I hope you are submitting a version of this as an LTE to some media near you.  It, I think, would get published because torture is a very emotional issue.  

    As always, you have framed this so well.

  2. Valtin,

    this one seems more of a personal statement from you, rather than a “study” for a report or something.

    That is what I meant in my last comment in your recent past essay. I read the feeling in it, & also the anger(?) or maybe desperation at the fact that no one ever calls him on his hypocrisy, false patriotism, amoral judgement, bigotry (gooks) & on & on & on, but most of all, the issue of torture, which of many people, he, with all his reliance on his own “torture”, his POW years, to excuse his actions, makes him despicable.

    Strike the word “angry” above, please.

    I was not writing in judgement, but in anger.(my own)


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